Born May 10, 1893, in San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico, Tonita, whose Pueblo name meant “White Coral Beads,” was raised by her aunt, Martina Vigil, a Cochití Pueblo potter.  By age 17, Tonita was a professional artist.  An instructor at both the Santa Fe and Albuquerque Indian Schools, she was the most influential Native American woman artist of her time.  Affectionately titled the ‘Grand Old Lady of Pueblo Art’, her medium was primarily pen-and-ink embellished with watercolor.  Tonita was a featured artist at the 1931 Exposition of Indian Tribal Arts in New York and at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933.  In 1932, the Whitney Museum bought her painting Basket Dance for $225—the highest price paid up to this time for a Pueblo painting.  Her children included painter Joe Hilario Herrera who influenced Santa Clara Pueblo painter Helen Hardin.  Tonita died at Santo Domingo Pueblo, New Mexico.  Her husband, following Pueblo custom, burnt all her remaining paintings and personal effects.

Source:  "Tonita Peña Pueblo Painter," Native American Art, 2010.  Retrieved 7/12/2019,
Photo:  Author unknown.  Date: 1900.  Public Domain in U.S.:  Pre 1/1/1925.  Public Domain elsewhere where copyright term is author’s life plus 70 years or less

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